Safe, easy vaccination can shield Kentuckians from highly contagious virus

LONDON — The number of measles cases in the United States has reached its highest level since before the virus was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an astonishing 971 cases have been confirmed in 26 states between Jan. 1 and the end of May.

Measles is a viral infection that is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications, including death. The MMR vaccine is an effective step to help prevent contraction of the measles virus, as well as mumps and rubella. With the number of measles cases on the rise, Saint Joseph London urges all those who are eligible to receive the MMR vaccination.

“There is no treatment that can cure a patient with an established measles infection and it’s an extremely contagious virus,” said Peter Ko, MD, CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Primary Care. “This is why it’s imperative to get vaccinated, for your own health and the health of others you come into contact with on a regular basis.”

The measles virus spreads through coughing and sneezing. Illustrating the highly contagious nature of the virus, it is estimated that up to 90 percent of the people in close proximity to an infected person will also become infected if they have not been vaccinated. A high fever is the first symptom of the virus, followed by coughing, a runny nose and red eyes. The infected person then develops a rash of tiny, red spots starting at the head and spreading down the body.

Children 12 months and older need to receive the MMR vaccine twice due to the seriousness of the virus in young children. Adults who received an earlier vaccine should also be revaccinated with the current MMR vaccination. Specifically, those born after 1957 who do not have vaccination records, as well as those born between 1963 and 1968 who received the Killed Measles vaccine, should make an appointment for the MMR vaccination. There is no negative effect in receiving more than one dose of the vaccine; doctors recommend two doses for certain adults, including students attending colleges or vocational schools and those traveling internationally.

“Some parents delay or refuse vaccinations for their children due to misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines,” said Dr. Ko. “But this disease is particularly serious because of its extreme contagiousness and because we cannot predict how severe a case may be. We strongly advise getting yourself and those in your care vaccinated.”

If you or someone you know believes they may have measles or has symptoms of the virus, contact a physician immediately.